Behavioral and neural correlates of delay of gratification 40 years later.
We examined the neural basis of self-regulation in individuals from\na cohort of preschoolers who performed the delay-of-gratification\ntask 4 decades ago. Nearly 60 individuals, now in their mid-forties,\nwere tested on "hot" and "cool" versions of a go/nogo task to assess\nwhether delay of gratification in childhood predicts impulse control\nabilities and sensitivity to alluring cues (happy faces). Individuals\nwho were less able to delay gratification in preschool and consistently\nshowed low self-control abilities in their twenties and thirties\nperformed more poorly than did high delayers when having to suppress\na response to a happy face but not to a neutral or fearful face.\nThis finding suggests that sensitivity to environmental hot cues\nplays a significant role in individuals' ability to suppress actions\ntoward such stimuli. A subset of these participants (n = 26) underwent\nfunctional imaging for the first time to test for biased recruitment\nof frontostriatal circuitry when required to suppress responses to\nalluring cues. Whereas the prefrontal cortex differentiated between\nnogo and go trials to a greater extent in high delayers, the ventral\nstriatum showed exaggerated recruitment in low delayers. Thus, resistance\nto temptation as measured originally by the delay-of-gratification\ntask is a relatively stable individual difference that predicts reliable\nbiases in frontostriatal circuitries that integrate motivational\nand control processes.